It had been 10 and a half months since New Mexico State University and the women’s basketball team met.
The stage was different last March though, UT Pan American and NMSU met with a conference championship on the line in Las Vegas. The Aggies, perennial conference powerhouse, came out on top and earned their berth into the NCAA tournament with an 18 point win.
Fast forward to tonight, New Mexico State University exerted its dominance over the Vaqueros again with a 68-57 win. The Aggies, who have only lost one WAC game in the last two seasons, led the entire contest. UTRGV falls to 5-2 in conference play, while the team they are behind improves to a perfect 7-0.
The Vaqueros were without key contributors Anushka Maldonado and Mary Savoy. They did, however, get guard Bernesha Peters back into the lineup. The freshman scored five points in her return.
Despite 15 first-half turnovers and 28 percent field goal shooting, the Vaqueros only trailed by single digits going into the break. At halftime, no Vaquero player had double-digit points.
New Mexico State, however, came out of the second half strong. It pulled out to a 14-point lead quickly into the third, and the rest of the game UTRGV spent chasing its opponent.
Leading the Aggies and all players in scoring was guard Sasha Weber with 18 points.
For the Vaqueros, the top scorer was Rickell Preston with 17, followed closely by Shawnte’ Goff’s 15.
Goff said the team must not let the two straight losses affect them going forward.
“We’re two games in the hole now, we’re not gonna panic and run [like] chickens with our heads cut off,” the junior guard said. “We have to be calm, be patient and get better in practice.”
The UTRGV Fieldhouse had a record crowd of 1,709 for the highly anticipated matchup, but the 5-foot-8-inch guard said the packed house did not play a role.
“We’ve had a great crowd starting since conference play,” she said. “We’re really sad we couldn’t win for all these fans, but, hopefully, they can come out and keep supporting us through our bad times.”
Head Coach Larry Tidwell wouldn’t allow injuries and a shorthanded squad to be a scapegoat in the loss.
“No, no, no excuses. We had open shots, we have to take care of the ball,” Tidwell said. “Nobody feels sorry for us because we have hurt players, it’s part of the game.”
The head coach was quick to look forward to the second half of the season, where they’ll spend most games on the road.
“Right now we’re second in the WAC and we plan on staying there until we can move up,” he said.
The Vaqueros are next in action Thursday when they travel to play Utah Valley University and Grand Canyon University, two teams they have already beat in the first round of games.